Federal Authorities Seize 330 Kilograms of Cocaine, Arrest Six Individuals
|U.S. Attorney’s Office June 07, 2012|
SAN JUAN—Following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), officers and special agents assigned to the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) arrested earlier this week six Dominican Republic nationals on drug trafficking charges. The individuals tried to introduce 330 kilograms and one kilogram of heroin with an estimated street value of $8 million into Puerto Rico, announced United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers onboard a marine surveillance vessel detected the six men aboard a suspicious 25-foot unmarked fiberglass boat transiting illegally towards Puerto Rico. Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan received notification from a CBP officer of the ongoing situation and proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus to interdict the suspect vessel.
The Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and detained Jairo Torres-Balbuena, 29; José Manuel Rodríguez, 30; Anheli Regalado, 25; Berner Balbuena-Perreaux, 38; Jorge King, 52; and Juan Polanco-Rodríguez, 35, all nationals of the Dominican Republic.
Matinicus boarding team members searched the suspect vessel and located 15 bales of suspected contraband. A field test conducted by Matinicus crewmembers on the contents of the shipment tested positive for the presence of cocaine, including more than one kilogram of heroin.
The crew of the Matinicus rendezvoused with the Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant and embarked the suspected smugglers to run biometrics background checks on the suspects in order to verify if any of them had a previous criminal or illegal immigration history in the United States.
The Matinicus transferred custody of the six Dominicans, the suspect vessel, and the seized contraband to awaiting HSI special agents in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. Those arrested were transferred to the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting the outcome of their case. Yesterday, June 6, they had their initial hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin and remained detained.
“These arrests and multi-kilogram seizure are a clear indication of the success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Initiative,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue maximizing all of our combined resources to investigate and prosecute those who in flagrant disregard of our laws and way of life try to smuggle illegal contraband into our area of jurisdiction.”
CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, the Coast Guard, CBP, and PRPD’s Joint Forces for Rapid Action.